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For the visually impaired, foot overbridge means a little more freedom

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 10:36 -- geeta.nair

Komal (23) goes through an ordeal every day, changing two buses and an auto to get to her office near Lodhi Road from her residence in Burari. The two-hour commute brings her to the toughest part of her journey — crossing the road from across The Oberoi Hotel to get to the Blind Relief Association, where she works.

The visually impaired receptionist at the candle shop inside the association strives to be more independent every day, but crossing that road as speeding cars whiz past is a challenge.

“While helping me cross the road, I don’t know if the stranger will put his or her hand on my waist, neck, hand or the plastic stick. Last month, I met with an accident while crossing the road and broke my watch. This happens often,” she said.

Ongoing construction work near the hotel, parked cars and a broken footpath punctuated with trees is another hurdle. Bringing some respite, however, the Delhi High Court Monday asked authorities to take “immediate steps to check illegal parking of vehicles on the pavement outside the association and rectify other issues which cause problems to visually-impaired persons”.

More importantly, the Public Works Department (PWD) told the bench that construction of a foot overbridge (FOB) has been approved and will begin in June.

At the association, the news is received with some cynicism. K C Pande, executive secretary of the association, said, “Letters to civic bodies such as the NDMC, PWD, police and traffic police have been written since 1995, requesting constriction of a subway or an FOB as it is of great inconvenience to visually impaired people who study, work or live here. This is a welcome move, of course.”

The association also wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and former L-G Najeeb Jung in 2014.

The association is home to a senior secondary school, which has 200 visually impaired students, a teachers’ training college with 55 students, a computer diploma course with 20 students and a vocational training programme with 50 students, along with a staff of 100 of whom 25 are visually-impaired.

At the sewing department, as Arjun Kumar Shah (21) stitches up cloth tote bags, news of the FOB lights up his face. “I have been injured twice; cars coming down the flyover are always speeding… I live here but we go to Bhogal to buy groceries, and visit Red Fort or India Gate. I will go out more often if the FOB is built,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, Paras Grover (30), taking a call centre training course at the association, met with a minor accident — twisting his ankle as he ran across the road.

“Dil mein darr hai har roz… aaj kahan chot lagegi. We have to earn so we can’t stop coming here. I’ve been waiting for a bridge for 30 years,” said Rajkumar (60), at the diya packaging centre inside.

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